05/22/2008, 00.00
MYANMAR – UNITED NATIONS
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Ban Ki-moon will not see Burma’s real catastrophe

The United Nations secretary-general is in Yangon, but the junta has “cleaned up” the areas he will visit. There are few hopes Mr Ban will get the generals to open up more to foreign aid. For them the United Nations is in the pockets of the United States.

Yangon (AsiaNews) – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has arrived on his mission to Myanmar today but he is not likely to see the real extent of the humanitarian catastrophe caused by cyclone Nargis in the southern part of the country.

In the days preceding Mr Ban’s arrival Myanmar’s military junta has tightened controls in the areas the South Korean diplomat will visit, putting pressure on displaced people (DP) to return to their villages and banning people from leaving their tents to beg for help and food, this according to The Irrawaddy and the Democratic Voice of Burma, both online publications put out by Burmese exiles.

The same methods were used during the visit by Myanmar’s strongman Than Shwe in the Kungyangone area. Local officials piled food packages and relief supplies in front of refugees’ tents ahead of the visit to show Burma’s paramount leaders that their relief operation was going well.

In the meantime though, people are still dying of hunger and disease in DP camps, hoping against all hope that the United States and France might intervene even without the military regime’s green light, this according to some of the few foreign rescue workers allowed into the country.

People are holding onto the feeble hope that Ban Ki-moon might sway junta leaders to allow greater scope to international rescue operations.

Officially 133,000 people are dead or missing. For UN officials some 2.4 million people are in need of assistance, but only 30 per cent are getting any.

Mr Ban, who briefly met Prime Minister Thein Sein today, is set to travel in the afternoon to the disaster area in the Irrawaddy Delta region. He is also scheduled to meet strongman Than Shwe tomorrow in Naypydaw.

But all these efforts might in end turn out to be another set-up by the regime. In the past the generals had almost always rejected contacts with UN representatives.

“The generals think the UN is deeper in the US pocket than ever before. They are fearful that UN aid agencies are there in camouflage for the regime-change agenda,” said Thant Myint-U, a former UN official and grandson of the late U Thant, a former UN secretary-general.

For the ruling regime Russia and China are its only friends. Although quite involved in rescuing its own people caught under the rubble of the latest quake in Sichuan, the latter is blocking every initiative at the Security Council that would go against Myanmar’s rulers, guilty of what amounts to be mass murder.

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